Labour condemns May’s botched deal on the Border
‘The DUP tail is wagging the Tory dog. This is now a deeply serious situation’ – Starmer
Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds (centre), and fellow DUP MPs, as Mr Dodds delivers a statement outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA
Labour has condemned Theresa May’s botched deal on the Border as an embarrassment, as MPs from all parties warned against any deal that would give separate status to Northern Ireland.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the previous 24 hours had given a new meaning to the term “coalition of chaos”, which the prime minister had used against Jeremy Corbyn in this year’s general election.
“It’s one thing to go to Brussels and fall out with those on the other side of the negotiating table. It’s quite another to go to Brussels and fall out with those supposedly on your own side.
“Yesterday confirmed what we already knew: the DUP tail is wagging the Tory dog. This is now a deeply serious situation.”
Sir Keir appeared to shift Labour’s policy on Brexit, calling on the government to leave the option of remaining in the single market and the customs union on the table. Until now the party has only advocated staying in the customs union and single market during a transition period.
Anna Soubry, a former Conservative business minister who is one of her party’s most pro-European MPs, said that if Northern Ireland is to have regulatory alignment with the EU, so should the rest of the UK.
“The British people are fed up to the back teeth with all this. They want a solution. It might be that regulatory alignment is the solution, but if it is good enough for Northern Ireland it is good enough for the rest of the country,” said Ms Soubry.
“There is a solution. I do not care how we wrap it up in whatever fancy words, but if it conveys the effect on British business of the single market and the customs union, let us grab it, seize it, rub out the red lines, move on, work together, build a consensus and get a deal for our nation.”
Ireland’s ambassador in London, Adrian O’Neill, on Tuesday urged the DUP to take another look at the document it rejected on Monday.
“There are sometimes days like yesterday when something is about to happen, garbled versions get leaked in the media, people adopt robust positions, everyone gets very worked up, and sometimes it gets very difficult to de-escalate that in a couple of hours, and get people back into deal-making,” he told the Institute for Government.
“Sometimes what is needed is for everyone to step back and to calmly think about it and to focus on the totality of the package on the table. Our hope is that is possible, and the British government and the DUP are able to re-engage, and look at this afresh.”
Mr O’Neill said there was much more to the document than the few lines which had been leaked, and a number of the options were closer to the preferences of the British government.
“The key element for the Irish Government in the document yesterday was an assurance, a very firm assurance that, howsoever it might be achieved, there will not be a hard Border on the island of Ireland.
“And the document did not seek just one route to that, the one that we’re all talking about, namely regulatory alignment. There were other possible routes to that as well, and other ones which accorded more closely with the preferences of the British government.”